Potential Presidential Candidates:
The Moves They’re Making

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 10, 2019 — January promised to be an active month on the budding presidential campaign front, and we are already seeing movement in that regard. Below is a synopsis of the latest activity from major and not so major potential national candidates.

  • Billionaire Tom Steyer (D) scheduled a political announcement from Iowa yesterday, which yielded a statement that he is forming a presidential exploratory committee in addition to calling for President Trump’s outright impeachment and removal from office.
  • On Saturday, former Housing & Urban Development secretary Julian Castro (D) is expected to announce his candidacy after beginning the exploratory phase of his effort in early December. Should his presidential effort fizzle early, pivoting into a Senate race against three-term Texas incumbent John Cornyn (R) could become a viable political option.
  • Former US representative and Texas senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke (D) has asked staff members, according to the Wall Street Journal, to begin developing a meeting and events schedule in states other than his own.
  • California Sen. Kamala Harris (D) is beginning a book tour next Tuesday for her publication, “The Truths We Hold”, which appears to be a precursor to officially forming a presidential exploratory committee.
  • Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe has changed his personal website to look like a campaign website, including a disclaimer that indicates he is paying for the site himself. The design and content makes transitioning into a presidential campaign website simple and efficient.
  • Former vice president, Joe Biden, is holding intense meetings with former staff members and campaign advisors to assess whether he will enter the 2020 nationwide contest. At this point, Biden has a substantial lead in national Democratic nomination polls, and in the key early state of Iowa, but is still nowhere close to securing majority support in any survey. It is likely that we will begin to obtain substantial clues to his ultimate intention sometime in February or early March.

Previously declaring their candidacies are former US Rep. John Delaney (D-MD), West Virginia state senator and 2018 congressional nominee Richard Ojeda (D), and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

Those already forming presidential exploratory committees or hinting they will soon do so are Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Washington governor and former congressman, Jay Inslee. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is saying he will decide whether to enter the race within the next two months. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-D/VT) continues to remain a presence in the 2020 field but has yet to make any official announcement or file a particular campaign committee.

It appears clear that the early first tier, assuming all of the aforementioned actually become candidates, would consist of Biden, Sen. Sanders, and O’Rourke, in that order. It is they who attract double-digit support in every early national poll.

Sen. Warren may be in danger of getting caught in the middle, playing to the leftward faction as a base at a time where those rank and file voters appear to be looking elsewhere. In no early poll does Sen. Warren even reach low double digits and falls consistently behind the top three in every released public poll. She will definitely need a momentum swing to re-enter the top tier of the Democratic field, and, in her case, it needs to come early since her name identification among the party primary voters and caucus attenders is already high.

At this point, who else could catch fire is anyone’s guess. Sen. Harris should reap some benefit with California moving its primary to March 3; the most populous state is likely to give its senator a large chunk of the delegation’s first-ballot support. Ohio may also move into the March 3 slot, which will likely become this cycle’s Super Tuesday. If so, Sen. Brown’s chances to obtain a substantial number of early delegates would be enhanced.

Even though action is coming very early in this next presidential cycle, it is important to remember that actually casting the first votes is still more than a year away. Much will happen to change the Democratic standing order and fortunes of each individual candidate.

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